TBY talks to Matías Mori, Executive Vice-President of Chile’s Foreign Investment Committee, on a recent trade drive with the UAE, the opening of a UAE embassy in Santiago, and the benefits of investing in Chile.
TBY What are the positive outcomes from your visit to Dubai?
MATÍAS MORI I came to Dubai with ProChile, the Chilean promotion bureau, to participate in the Gulfood 2012 fair. We are aiming to enhance the volumes of trade between Chile and the region. When you promote a country, there are three sectors to consider: international trade, investments, and tourism. International trade and tourism have a similar sales pitch in terms of attracting customers, but investments are a different ball game. While in tourism, you may hope for surprises in a newly discovered country, in investments you don’t want any surprises. International trade is a precursor to investments. We have seen the volume of trade increasing between the UAE and Chile. We want to reach a tipping point at which the international trade between the two countries reaches the investment level.
What does the opening of the UAE’s embassy in Santiago in 2011 say about the trade relationship between the two countries?
International relations are based upon signaling, and this was a great signal for us. It demonstrates the commitment of the UAE to the region. We are hoping to launch direct flights from Santiago to Dubai. There is a direct flight to Brazil, and they will open a new route to Argentina. However, the volume of trade has a high correlation with the number of direct flights.
What does Dubai have to offer in terms of Chile’s opening up to the Middle East?
Dubai is a hub. Its people have local regional knowledge, share the same religion, and practice the same customs. It’s easier for us to go through Dubai than to make trade relations with the neighboring countries on our own. Dubai has 1,400 hotels. The hospitality sector is huge, and there is a lot of room for the international trade of Chilean products such as wine, fruit, and dried foods.
What other exports is Chile promoting in Dubai?
In terms of international trade, there are certain sectors we are tying to push, such as pharmaceuticals. The are many pharmaceuticals companies that want to set up here. Other manufactured products, such as produced olive oil, are also in demand. In terms of investments, we have a portfolio of public and private projects in sectors such as agribusiness, infrastructure, energy, and mining. We are especially focused on agribusiness, given the fact that this region has issues with food security, and Chile has very healthy food production. Chileans consume just 20% of what we produce. We also have the third-largest supply of lithium, following Kazakhstan and Bolivia.
What opportunities and challenges do you anticipate in Dubai?
I think that food is critical, and we have many opportunities in that sector. If it wishes to become a technology hub, it will start to require lithium, iron, and copper. There is a problem with branding; when other countries think about Latin America, they tend to focus on Brazil, the same way China has been the focal point in Asia. There are many countries on the side that are not as well-known and considered. We are trying to brand our position and sell our attributes. Latin America is a region of the world, and people usually view it with a lot of prejudice and believe the stereotypes, which are simply untrue in Chile.
How do you help businesses interested in investing in Chile?
There is a huge difference between the governments in the Gulf region and governments back home. In Chile, the government comes behind the private sector, as the private sector leads and knows best. However, in the Middle East it’s more government-to-government. The trade commissioner supports people who may be willing to invest, and while we are here in Dubai, we try to set them up with a plane to Chile. You can trade or make a touristic decision based on a brochure, but it’s very unlikely that someone will invest without seeing the country itself. Our goal is to convince them to visit Chile.
How supportive has the UAE government been during this initiative?
The government has openly supported us. The fact that it opened an embassy is a good sign. Since the UAE is flying to Brazil, it’s a signal that there is more interest in the region. The UAE is becoming more aware of Latin America and its potential, especially during these times when Europe is not doing so well. The US also has an election this year, and the UAE is viewing that as another opportunity to try and diversify its portfolio in terms of investments.
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